Why Large Dumpsters Sometimes Cost Less Than Small Dumpsters

Large dumpster rental costs

How is it possible that—in some cases—spending $300 to rent a 20 yard dumpster is a more cost-efficient option than renting a 10 yard dumpster for $250? That simple math doesn’t seem logical, but this scenario can, in fact, happen. The key is looking beyond the booking cost of the dumpster.

It’s easy to see the base price of a dumpster and make your decision based on that information, but it’s a mistake that could cost you time and money.

Start by estimating the amount of junk, waste, or debris as accurately as possible.

The key to renting the right dumpster for the job is estimating the type and amount of debris as accurately as possible.

If you have trouble estimating the amount of debris you have to dispose of, a local dumpster rental company is a great resource to turn to.

TIP: One cubic yard is equal to a 3 ft. x 3 ft. x 3 ft. volume of space—roughly the size of a standard-size kitchen stove. (See image below.)

How much can a 10 yard dumpster hold

If you estimate the load to be anywhere from 3 - 6 cubic yards, a 10 yard dumpster makes sense. See the chart below for some examples of dumpster size recommendations for various projects.

What should you do if your debris estimate is 8, 9, 10 or 11 cubic yards? The mistake some people make is trying to get by with renting a 10 yard bin to cram 10 yards of debris inside. While this may not be an issue in all cases, there are certain situations where this scenario can lead to problems.

RELATED: Dumpster Sizes and What They Hold

2 potential problems caused by choosing a dumpster that’s too small:

how high can you fill a dumpster

When you try to save a few bucks by going with a smaller dumpster than what the debris estimates tell you, it can cause headaches in two ways:

1. Increased costs

Renting a dumpster that's too small for the job could force you to pay extra in one or more of the following ways:

  • You’ll pay overage fees if the weight of the load exceeds the stated weight allowance. These charges can be $50 - $100 for every ton you go over. (Costs may vary.)
  • You may need to rent a second dumpster to finish the job. This likely will cost you an extra few hundred dollars.
  • If the truck driver has to unload some of the debris (in cases when you’re not there when the dumpster is picked up) to conform to local transport laws, you may incur additional fees for the labor.

RELATED: Weight Limits for 10, 20, 30 and 40 Yard Dumpsters

2. Delays

In addition to the cost conundrum, renting a smaller-than-what-you-need dumpster is likely to lead to extra work on your part, as well as delays.

  1. First, the dumpster company may require that you unload an overloaded dumpster until it meets the requirements of the rental provider. Laws require dumpsters to be filled no higher than the rim of the container. This is so the load can be safely tarped and transported to the disposal facility.
  2. Secondly, significant delays are possible in cases where a new dumpster needs to be dropped off onsite to complete the job. If you’re in a time crunch, delays like this can be a pain.

RELATED: Tips to Save on Dumpster Rental Costs

Rules of Thumb

Anytime you’re on the fence as to which size dumpster to rent, go with a size larger than you think you’ll need to finish the job. In many cases, you’ll find that the amount of debris generated during a project (e.g., renovation) is greater than originally estimated. The “extra” container volume provides a buffer zone to be sure the dumpster is not overfilled.

Use the chart below as a reference in determining the ideal dumpster size based on different scenarios.

Type of Waste / Project

Estimated Amount of Debris


Whole-Home cleanout

25-35 yards

30-40 yard dumpster

Roof shingles

1,500 sq. ft. roof = 2.25 tons

15-20 yard dumpster

Yard/Inert debris (Dense/Heavy)

2 yard = 4 tons

10 yard dumpster

Living room furniture set (Bulky)

6-8 cubic yards

10-15 yard dumpster

Kitchen renovation
(Some Bulk)

10-15 yards

20 yard dumpster

Garage or attic cleanout (Varies)

8-15 yards

15-20 yard dumpster

Light demo 
(Shed, deck, fence, etc.)

10-20 yards

20-30 yard dumpster

Hopefully, these general guidelines will help widdle down the dumpster choice you’re struggling with. As previously mentioned, the most accurate and best way to determine the ideal dumpster size for the job is to contact a local dumpster rental company in your area.

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